Tweets sent by the same person within a 4 hour time-window were used as samples of speed and direction. These samples were used to construct a vector field representing the average flow of people within the area. The vector field and total tweet density over the space were then used to simulate the movement of people. Particles, representing people, were released at locations where actual tweets were recorded and their subsequent movement was determined by the flow field. The particles start out blue and gradually change through purple to red over time so each trace shows the direction of movement. Locations where there is little movement will have blue dots or very short blue traces. Longer traces with more red show a greater speed at that point.
This is an ocean of ephemera. A library of Babel. No one is under any illusions about the likely quality—seriousness, veracity, originality, wisdom—of any one tweet. The library will take the bad with the good: the rumors and lies, the prattle, puns, hoots, jeers, bluster, invective, bawdy probes, vile gossip, epigrams, anagrams, quips and jibes, hearsay and tittle-tattle, pleading, chicanery, jabbering, quibbling, block writing and ASCII art, self-promotion and humblebragging, grandiloquence and stultiloquence. New news every millisecond. A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances. Now comical then tragical matters.
Call it what you will, the Twitter corpus now forms a piece of “the creative record of America” and therefore falls squarely within the library’s mission, says Robert Dizard Jr., the Deputy Librarian of Congress. Historians treasure nineteenth-century diaries; why not twenty-first-century tweets? “I think the twitter archive has the potential to allow researchers or scholars to paint a picture of the past with more colors or a fuller brushstroke.”